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Perfect Little World

So I read Kevin Wilson’s Perfect Little World.

The book opens at the turning point: A psychologist puts together a center where 10 children are raised collectively by 19 parents (1 is a single parent and all the rest are heterosexual couples) from birth without experiencing the concept of a nuclear family.  And now — at age 5 — the children are on the cusp of discovering which parent(s) in the group is/are their biological parent(s).  How will their world change once they know their origin?

I know.

I went into reading this book with a liiiiiiiiiiittle bit of baggage.

I spent the better part of the book wondering how the center in the story was different from the early kibbutzim.  I don’t know of any modern kibbutz that still has a children’s house, but when kibbutzim first started out, kids lived separately from their parents.  They weren’t kept in the dark about their origin — the spent a few hours a day with their biological parents — but they were raised collectively by the adults on the kibbutz.  So beyond the fact that the children in the novel had their upbringing regulated by an army of parenting experts, it didn’t seem all that different from kibbutz life.  And to that end, it seems a little more backward vs. forward-thinking since even kibbutzim have moved away from this practice.

But the rest of the book I spent considering the same question the characters grapple with throughout the novel: What makes a family?  What makes a parent?  What makes a child?  Can we choose our brother and sisters and have them become actual brothers and sisters and not just really good, life-long friends?  (And to that end, what is the difference?)  How big can a family get before you see some cracks start to form due to the weight of the relationship?

I didn’t walk away from the book with clear answers, even though the book wraps up very neatly — maybe too neatly — in the end.  I’m not sure why I expected to discover these things in a book if I haven’t come to clear answers in real life.

Do I recommend the book?  Yes.  I think so.  (At the very least, to have people to discuss this with.)  But go into it knowing that it may get under your skin; that it may poke and prod you a bit.


1 Beth { 11.28.17 at 7:34 am }

Hm. Thought provoking for sure. As a parent through both biology and adoption I know I already think about these concepts a lot. Possibly I am too sensitive for this read but always good to have a recommendation.

2 Sharon { 11.28.17 at 8:48 am }

My book club read this book a few months ago and I found it very interesting and thought provoking. I liked the characters. The reasons for the experiment were a little troubling but it didn’t seem to have done the children harm.

3 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.29.17 at 11:20 pm }

Oooh. Sounds thought-provoking for those of us interested in adoption dynamics. Going to my library site to reserve.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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